As the anime streaming wars heat up, AT&T, one of its key players, has reportedly made a striking overture toward consolidation.
The conglomerate sounded out its rival Sony about a sale of Crunchyroll, the major anime streaming platform which AT&T owns, according to a report in The Information.
Here are the details:
- AT&T offered to sell Crunchyroll to Sony for $1.5 billion, reports The Information, citing three people familiar with the situation. Sony reportedly “balked at” the price, which effectively values the streamer at $500 per subscriber. (Crunchyroll passed three million subscribers last month.)
- Sony has a 95% stake in Funimation, an anime distributor and streaming service, which is Crunchyroll’s main rival. Funimation and Crunchyroll had a licensing partnership from 2016 to 2018; it ended after Sony acquired its stake in the former and set about developing the brand as a global competitor.
- Recent years have seen anime consolidation within Sony. Last year, three of its anime units — Funimation, France’s Wakanim, and Australia’s Madman Anime Group — were combined into a joint venture under the Funimation name. Additionally, in April, Sony paid around $400 million for a minority stake in Bilibili, a Chinese content platform with a strong focus on anime.
- The Information places AT&T’s offer in the context of its $151 billion debt load, which ballooned after its $81 billion acquisition of Time Warner (now renamed Warnermedia) in 2018. It reports that Warnermedia considered selling Crunchyroll in May, but put the decision on hold as its new CEO Jason Kilar “evaluate[d] the business and strategy.”
- Recent weeks have seen sweeping layoffs at Warnermedia and its divisions, including a 20% reduction in staff at DC Comics. Its new streaming service HBO Max has got off to a rocky start, drawing 4.1 million subscribers in two months — a number that pales in comparison with rival Disney+ — amid criticism over confusing branding.
(Image at top: “One Piece,” which is available on Crunchyroll.)